I’m normally a big fan of train travel, but in the case of Snowpiercer, it may be time to reconsider. In this frozen future, a gigantic, perpetually-moving train circles the globe with the last remnants of humanity as its passengers. While the 2014 film starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton was set well into humanity’s life on the train, the upcoming TBS series is set just seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland. Despite the time difference, issues of class warfare, social injustice, and the politics of survival will still be very much at the forefront of this post-apocalyptic story.
HNS attended the press conference with cast members Jennifer Connelly (Melanie Cavill), Daveed Diggs (Andre Layton), Alison Wright (Ruth Wardle), Mickey Sumner (Brakeman Bess Till), Lena Hall (Miss Audrey), and Steven Ogg (Pike), as well as Executive Producer / Showrunner Graeme Manson at San Diego Comic-Con. Here are some of the interesting things they had to share about Snowpiercer.
1. The class dynamics on the train will play out in unexpected ways.
Being the Head of Hospitality aboard Snowpiercer is a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. Melanie Cavill is essentially a host, and the trailer (below) makes her out to be very composed and important. “She makes the announcements, talks about what will be served in various cars for lunch and the group activities. She smooths relationships and things that need to be addressed, things that aren’t working,” Jennifer Connelly explained. “She can bring the wishes and desires of the passengers to the front of the train, and she can convey the wishes and desires of [management] to the passengers.”
While Melanie is from the front of the train and living life among the upper crust, that won’t prevent her from having some interesting, complex interactions with someone like Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) – a “Tailie” from the back of the train who is the world’s only surviving homicide detective. “They come with some preconceptions about each other and some biases. I think both characters defy each other’s expectations in an interesting way as they come to know each other,” Connelly said. “The show allows us to first judge characters and have a certain idea about who they’re going to be based on what they look like or which car they’re in, and the more time we spend with them, the more you come to understand the things that they’re hiding and the things they don’t put forward first. I think that’s always an interesting process.”
2. The remnants of humanity must make tough choices to survive.
Believe it or not, there are some difficult calls to make at the end of the world – even for someone like Melanie, who seems to have it made at the front of the train. “All of the characters find themselves in a very extreme situation, and to survive – and ultimately for the greater good – they find themselves doing things that they never thought were possible,” Connelly explained.
For Melanie specifically, it sounds like these hard decisions result from her elevated position on the train. “Melanie has a lot of responsibilities – we come to understand over the course of the show how massive they are – and she kind of has her back up against the wall,” Jennifer said. “She does what she can, and sometimes she does things that she doesn’t really want to look at but ultimately is forced to look at – things she doesn’t feel good about. I do think her heart is in the right place, but that’s for audiences to decide.”
3. Similarities to the movie are based more in tone than in plot.
Snowpiercer will share many themes with the film of the same name, but don’t expect direct character parallels to Evans’ and Swinton’s characters or too many plot points you recognize. Executive Producer / Showrunner Graeme Manson explained, “I really love the movie, and it has its similarities. It starts int he tail and the goal is to take the engine. Its pace is relentless. And I really wanted to keep that pace and that similar sense of injustice, that something’s going to explode here. I wanted to keep the tone of the movie, but we needed to tell the story in all classes at the same time – so our heart might be with the tail, but we are telling stories [throughout the train] that we can relate to.”
Viewers can definitely still expect intensity and action, with the bonus of more time to explore and develop character moments. “The physical aspect of film in terms of the physical action, the fighting, the adventure – we really kept that. But the show has time,” Manson said. “Some of my favorite scenes are just between two characters – […] when those characters can sit across the table from each other and have a head to head scene. They are more exciting and thrilling and juicy than any fight we could have on the train.”
4. Don’t expect too many flashbacks.
In any post-apocalyptic scenario, it’s natural to wonder what chain of events led to the strange, heightened circumstances we find the characters experiencing in the story. But in the case of Snowpiercer, we won’t be spending too much time looking back at the world we know.
“I’m not a huge fan of flashbacks in general. Certainly in this story, it didn’t feel right to flash back for instance to ‘Here’s my family in the moment that we all realized the world is ending.’ But we do have an element of more of an internal, ethereal sense – more about memory,” Manson said. He went on to explain, “It’s less flashback for plot. This is to do with the Night Car and Miss Audrey’s (Hall) empathy and helping people to access their grief, which is a big theme of the show. That aspect has a more ethereal quality, but it does get to the characters’ core fears or guilt. It’s […] more about internal characters.”
5. Get excited to explore all the train cars, from modest to extravagant.
One of the most visually interesting elements of the Snowpiercer film was exploring all of the different train cars, which encompass anything humanity might need – from living quarters to classrooms to homes for the last remaining animals on earth. The TV series will have plenty of train cars to explore, and Jennifer Connelly teased that the artistry of the various sets was astounding. “I was awestruck by what they accomplished,” she said, describing how the sets appear as much masses of plywood and metal from the outside. “You go inside and they are so extraordinary – so beautiful, so much creativity, so much imagination, such skill and artistry.”
Jennifer also described one of her favorite train cars, which is actually located near the back of the train. “I loved the houses made out of shipping containers in the third class,” she said. “The passengers have repurposed all of these items that were found and discarded, and they’ve created these magical homes for themselves. It’s quite beautiful […] and really wild and cool.”
6. There’s always a way to stay positive, even at the end of the world.
Chances of survival may seem pretty bleak when literally all of the people left alive on the planet are living in a highly segregated, ever-moving train. But despite the circumstances, one person at least has found a way to stay positive.
“One of the things that was so surprising to me that I discovered about Layton was how optimistic he is about the future,” Daveed Diggs said. “Most of it has to do with the relationship to children on the train and how important the future is given what a shit show the present is. You wouldn’t expect that sometimes, which is one of the things that resonates particularly with me today. I find myself optimistic about the future despite what a shit show the present is,” he said with a laugh.
On that note – that’s a wrap on our Snowpiercer SDCC coverage. We can’t wait to see more from this post-apocalyptic sci-fi series. Stay tuned!
Snowpiercer will debut in Spring 2020 on TBS.